Steven Price said the idea to turn Netflix’s award-winning 2019 documentary series Our Planet into a stage concert came while the composer was recording the music for the show.
“Each month, I’d go into the studio and record a new episode,” said Price. “Very early on, we had a big screen behind the orchestra, and it was kind of amazing. The players were watching, and they were responding to it. And I just happened to say, ‘God, it’d be amazing to do this live one day’—not thinking anything of it. But it kind of planted a seed.”
Over the pandemic, that seed became Our Planet Live in Concert, which will be coming to the McCallum Theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 28. Footage from Our Planet will be shown as a live orchestra performs Price’s music; William Shatner and the legendary David Attenborough are the recorded narrators.
The Independent recently spoke to Price via Zoom, as he took a break from working on music for the upcoming Gal Gadot spy-thriller Heart of Stone. Price is best known for winning the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2014 for the film Gravity. He explained how he and his team turned the eight-episode Our Planet series into a two-hour live show.
“We went back in, re-edited things and made whole new sequences—the idea being that we spend the first half of the show really celebrating the planet and showing all the different environments, the creatures that live there, and the way they’re all interconnected,” he said. “We do go into some of the more painful aspects and things that are going wrong, but after that, we spend a lot of time showing some reasons for optimism and good things that are happening and ways that positive steps have been made.”
Price called the process of creating Our Planet Live in Concert “a fun challenge.”
“In the original show, we would dedicate an hour to each of the different environments, and obviously we can’t do that here, but we wanted to give a taste of all of those,” he said. “… It was a process of working out which sequences we really wanted to use, which bit of music I felt would really work in the live environment, and seeing how we could make all that work.”
Price said the original plan was for Our Planet Live in Concert to debut in 2020 or 2021. Of course, COVID-19 put those plans on hold—but the lockdowns gave Price plenty of time to work on the project. He said the final product became more celebratory as a result.
“There was such a hunger to celebrate the good things rather than dwell in the bad things, and to actually celebrate the fact we can all be together in a room sharing the experience,” Price said. “I think (the pandemic) led me to certainly lean on some of the optimism and some of the more glorious things that we could make from the show. Hopefully, the overall effect is that people have a joyous kind of evening.”
I asked Price how it felt when he saw Our Planet Live in Concert performed in front of an audience for the first time.
“I spend my life in dark rooms writing music, and then recording studios recording music. It’s wonderful, but you don’t really share anything with an audience … so this was incredible,” he said.
Both Our Planet and Our Planet Live in Concert were made in conjunction with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund, the world’s largest conservation group. WWF is receiving a donation from each performance of Our Planet Live in Concert—and the tie with WWF is what led to William Shatner being one of the show’s narrators. In 2021, the Star Trek great went into space via Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company.
“WWF is obviously very associated with the show, and one of the things they were interested in, and we agreed, was that it’d be great to have one of their ambassadors involved in presenting the show,” Price said. “When we looked at the people involved, Shatner was so keen, and so overwhelmed by his experience (going to space), that this felt like a great marriage of those two things.”
Of course, Our Planet would not be Our Planet without the talents of David Attenborough.
“We did a film after Our Planet called David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, which was basically his life story and his message,” Price said. “We’ve got a little element of that in the show, which is a real tribute to his work in this area, and what he’s done. That’s something I’m really pleased is in the show.”
Our Planet Live in Concert will take place at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 28, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $45 to $105. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit mccallumtheatre.com.